RE/MAX Canada Explores Solutions in the 15-Minute Neighbourhood Report: Lessons for Small Communities, Launched in Collaboration with Area Expert Contributors
As Canada continues to grapple with a supply and affordable housing crisis, RE/MAX Canada explores a feasible solution through its latest report, 15-Minute Neighbourhood: Lessons for Small Communities.
The report, named for an urban planning concept that puts daily necessities within a 15-minute walk, bicycle or transit ride from home, attempts to highlight this pragmatic approach to building the right supply of affordable housing for the greatest number of Canadians, in a way that delivers maximum liveability – particularly in smaller municipalities that are experiencing rapid growth.
“Private and public interests must coalesce to make what seems visionary to some, tangible for all,” says Christopher Alexander, President of RE/MAX Canada. “By rethinking the design, relevant government policies and zoning bylaws applicable in our neighbourhoods, and integrating all the complex layers within existing developed land areas, we can achieve a more effective and comprehensive national housing strategy.”
RE/MAX Canada has advocated for improved liveability in the context of “home” for more than five years now, with ongoing research illustrating that to Canadians, “home” is more than just a commodity that is evaluated on its square footage. It lies within a dynamic neighbourhood that delivers an emotional return based on the quality-of-life expectations and aspirations of its residents.
“Without schools, libraries, small businesses, enterprise and green spaces, as well as accessible and diversified transportation, the home becomes empty inventory,” says Elton Ash, Executive Vice President of RE/MAX Canada. “Our 15-Minute Neighbourhoods Report begins with what everyone agrees upon – Canada and its three levels of government must implement a housing strategy that will significantly and expediently build more accessible and affordable housing across all markets, large and small. However, there are a number of unintended consequences tied to the seemingly simple equation of just adding more housing inventory.”
According to a Leger survey commissioned by RE/MAX Canada as part of the report:
- Canadians ranked “lack of available and accessible transit options,” among their top three paint points in their communities (34 per cent). To further supplement, non-drivers are more likely to agree that the 15-Minute concept is achievable and feasible (58 per cent) compared to drivers (48 per cent).
- 48 per cent of respondents agree that the concept of the 15-Minute Neighbourhood is achievable and feasible, particularly non-drivers (59 per cent, versus 45 per cent of drivers). In addition, 54 per cent believe that (a) their neighbourhood needs better diversity and balance across walking, biking, public transportation, and driving and that (b) the 15- minute neighbourhood would help Canada reach its climate goals.
- 35 per cent of respondents agree that reducing commuting time to 15-minutes or less for necessary services, like work, appointments, childcare, restaurants and entertainment, shopping, etc., would improve one’s quality of life. However, lack of proximity to necessary amenities like grocery stores or childcare services, in addition to lack of safe, diverse transportation methods, like transit (34 per cent) and bike lanes and walkways (23 per cent) are identified as top pain points for Canadians.
“We agree that Canada needs to invest in building a lot more homes in the next decade, but it must be the right kind of housing within the context of the wider neighbourhood, its socioeconomic diversity, and indeed with climate as a constant potential disruptor,” says Alexander. “We need to invest in new soft and hard infrastructure; we need to also ensure that a percentage of the inventory is subsidized, open to non-equity co-op type properties and diversified across building types to avoid the perils of gentrification. We must rethink our streetscape to bring better diversity between public transportation, biking, walking and driving.
“If we want to make strides toward sustainable, long-term liveable and affordable housing, we must use existing land more pragmatically and create cities, towns and neighbourhoods that offer a mix of housing types with a vision for quality of life at the forefront,” Alexander adds.
RE/MAX Canada’s 15-Minute Neighbourhoods Report explores this urban design model within the context of urban planning, transportation and climate mitigation, in collaboration with relevant area expert contributors who delve into how this strategy can be implemented across urban design, policy, transportation and climate mitigation infrastructure. Key contributors include, Kathryn Bakos, Director, Climate Finance and Science, Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation; Ken Greenberg, Urban Designer, City Building Advocate, and Author; Shoshanna Saxe, PhD, P.Eng, Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Infrastructure, University of Toronto Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering.
“There is a misconception that the 15-minute neighbourhood is a new – in reality, as many of our agents and brokers in cities such as, Brampton, Ottawa and Regina have indicated, the concept is already in place, with plans for expansion,” adds Ash. “There’s growing consumer demand for neighbourhoods that allow residents to achieve work-life balance, greater affordability and access to amenities that boost quality of life – a trend that we expect will continue to gain momentum in the coming years.”
Key Learnings for Accessible, Sustainable and Affordable Housing:
- Diversity within Densification:
- We should be considering how we can create a variety of types of homes and sizes within each neighbourhood (high-rise, mid-rise, semi-detached and the “missing middle” etc). It’s important to note that Saxe suggests that in a best-case scenario there is no need for detached housing.
- Hard and soft infrastructure are non-negotiable elements to the 15-minute neighbourhood:
- For 15-minute neighbourhoods to reach the ideal they aspire to, the proper soft and hard infrastructure will need to be in place – these are the systems that allow communities to thrive and quality of life to flourish.
- Transform empty space into productive, residential communities:
- There is an opportunity amid decline of commercial real estate space, empty retail space and especially parking lots to transform them into residential dwellings.
- For this to happen, governments must reduce “red tape” by expanding zoning laws and incentivize developers to use this real estate.
- Balance in transportation:
- Car has become king and an over-reliance on the use of vehicles has fed urban sprawl, leading to a poor utilization of space and driving Canadians apart.
- This has negative long-term impacts on the environment, as well as the physical and mental health of Canadians.
- Cities should be designed to encourage and foster the use of various modes of transportation through; accounting for bike lanes on all major streets; implementing fast and accessible public transportation; and building walking paths/sidewalks throughout neighbourhoods.
- Offering a mix of housing:
- For cities to avoid falling into the trap of gentrification and ensuring that it provides equitable and affordable housing, a mix of housing needs to be incorporated.
- Within each neighbourhood there should be balance between market housing, subsidized housing, mixed-income housing and co-ops.
Regional Deep Dive
RE/MAX Canada brokers and agents in markets across Western Canada, Ontario, Atlantic Canada and Montreal, QC, were asked to provide a local perspective on their markets in relation to liveable, sustainable and affordable housing, within the context of the 15-Minute Neighbourhood.
About the Report:
The 2023 15-Minute Neighbourhood: Lessons for Small Communities Report includes insights about accessible, sustainable and affordable housing from contributors, including Kathryn Bakos, Director, Climate Finance and Science, Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation; Ken Greenberg, Urban Designer, City Building Advocate, and Author; and Shoshanna Saxe, PhD, P.Eng, Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Infrastructure, University of Toronto Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering. Report authored by RE/MAX Canada, contributors were interviewed to provide insight based on their areas of expertise on the topic of 15-minute cities. Insights were supplemented with research from a Leger consumer survey (details below) and surveys from RE/MAX Canada brokers and agents in markets across Western Canada, Ontario, Atlantic Canada and Montreal, QC.
Leger is the largest Canadian-owned full-service market research firm. An online survey of 1,549 Canadians was completed between April 14-17 using Leger’s online panel. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90 per cent. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
About the RE/MAX Network
As one of the leading global real estate franchisors, RE/MAX, LLC is a subsidiary of RE/MAX Holdings (NYSE: RMAX) with more than 140,000 agents in almost 9,000 offices with a presence in more than 110 countries and territories. Nobody in the world sells more real estate than RE/MAX, as measured by residential transaction sides. RE/MAX was founded in 1973 by Dave and Gail Liniger, with an innovative, entrepreneurial culture affording its agents and franchisees the flexibility to operate their businesses with great independence. RE/MAX agents have lived, worked and served in their local communities for decades, raising millions of dollars every year for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® and other charities. To learn more about RE/MAX, to search home listings or find an agent in your community, please visit remax.ca. For the latest news from RE/MAX Canada, please visit blog.remax.ca.
Forward looking statements
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